My Fertility Journey: And How I Kept On Keeping On

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice.
Always consult your doctor for the most appropriate treatment.

I am so thankful we didn’t give up.

No one could’ve prepared me for my fertility journey. It wore me down, got the best of me, and caused me a debilitating level of anxiety. The number of doctors (reproductive endocrinologists, therapists, you name it), the number of tests, the money, the sleepless nights reading every “trying-to-conceive” message board possible, the ups and downs, the fear, the false hope—all of it—are not things I ever care to relive, even while I look down at my 8-month-pregnant belly. Because of what I’ve been through, I am still fearful about this pregnancy on a daily basis. Afraid to be happy, excited, or too “comfortable.” When giving up was so tempting, I kept going on, because deep down there was a tiny voice inside me that said, “Somehow, you’re going to be a mom.”

A tiny voice inside me said, “Somehow, you’re going to be a mom.”

It took us 2 and a half years to finally become pregnant with the one that “stuck.” First, I endured 3 chemical pregnancies, 2 after getting pregnant through intercourse and 1 from an intrauterine insemination (IUI). I was so used to the phone call (“We’re sorry, but your HCG levels aren’t rising appropriately”) that I was numb to it. My 4th natural pregnancy actually implanted, and we made it to week 6. My husband and I were pregnancy rookies—we went ahead and told family. Looking back, who could blame us? We’d never gotten that far. Shortly after, we found out the gestational sac was empty. After the dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, we learned that the embryo was genetically abnormal. Devastated, we took a break and planned for in vitro fertilization (IVF) a few months later. I was in my late 30s by then and knew that time was not on my side.

I was in my late 30s by then and knew that time was not on my side.

Heading into IVF, I was excited and hopeful, with of course a little bit of fear that it wouldn’t work in the end. After a successful egg retrieval, in which 18 eggs were retrieved, we wound up with only 2 genetically normal embryos. The fertility specialist believed this was “normal for my age” (40). I was thankful, but still a bit discouraged that we didn’t end up with more. We transferred the first frozen embryo and, as I feared, it didn’t succeed. We had to be missing something. Why wouldn’t the normal embryo stick? Maybe I had an autoimmune issue harming any possible pregnancies? Did I need a hysteroscopy? I don’t have a problem questioning the doctors. On this journey, you have to advocate for yourself. There is no single method that works for everyone.

On this journey, you have to advocate for yourself. There is no single method
that works for everyone.

Again, we were devastated. And to add insult to injury, we had blown through a significant portion of our fertility benefits on my husband’s insurance plan. “No pressure,” though. “Just relax and it’ll happen.” As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t hate the people who said that. They just had no idea. The pressure of knowing we had a cap on our insurance coverage was stressful. I was very diligent about finding out our exact coverage—I didn’t want any surprise costs.

The pressure of knowing we had a cap on our insurance coverage was stressful. I was
very diligent about finding out our exact coverage—I didn’t want any surprise costs.

For our new round, we switched to a fertility center at a large academic hospital and waited for an appointment with the head of the facility. I would settle for nothing less at that point. We did another IVF cycle and egg retrieval. We again wound up with 2 genetically normal embryos from 11 eggs. The new doctor actually recommended that I see an OB/GYN who specialized in repeated miscarriage and IVF failure. I held off on this because it was a small fortune to even sit down with this doctor. So, we transferred the first embryo and failed.

Was it just my time? We’ll never know…

With one embryo remaining, and hardly any insurance benefits left, I went to the specialist OB/GYN. He believed that autoimmune issues were affecting implantation for me. He admitted none of this was well-studied or proven, but at this point, who cared? I took his extensive protocol of drugs alongside my 4th and last embryo transfer. Was this autoimmune protocol the key? Was it just my time? We’ll never know… But, on day 3 after my transfer, on an early-result pregnancy test in my work bathroom, I saw the faintest positive line. By faint, I mean totally undetectable unless you’ve looked at so many tests that your eyes have developed some kind of fertility super-vision. Our baby boy is due in 7 weeks. I am a different person than when we started. As hard as it was, and as much as I’m still afraid, I am so
thankful we didn’t give up.